In advance of this weekend’s wildcard games, I wanted to isolate specific advantageous matchups that could be interesting from a fantasy and prop perspective. We’ll break it down by game, now with the Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints.
Minnesota offense vs New Orleans defense:
- The Saints defense ranks 13th defending the pass and 11th defending the run, based on DVOA.
- The Vikings are unique in that they don’t use a lot of 3WR personnel groupings and instead use much more 12 and 21 personnel sets with multiple tight ends and running backs. Unfortunately, the Saints defend both sets very well. While they defend 11 personnel essentially at a league-average rate, they rank second in the NFL defending against 12 and first defending 21 personnel.
- Dalvin Cook is expected to be back but may have a tough time against the Saints. He is only 23rd in success rate among RBs this season and has lived off explosive runs as he ranks eighth with 13 runs of 15+ yards. Unfortunately, the Saints defense ranks seventh in the lowest percentage of explosive runs allowed to RBs. The Saints did face Christian McCaffrey twice this season and held him to just 90 yards on 31 carries. Even against Ezekiel Elliott early in the season, he was held to just 35 yards on 18 carries. Don’t expect a consistently good game from Cook.
- Kirk Cousins will have to face a defense that ranks in the top 5 in pressure rate. In general, Cousins has performed well against pressure but in his last start, he was pressured all game against Green Bay and was awful. Not sure in a raucous environment a guy like Cousins can step up here.
- Adam Thielen is a shell of himself right now and has 27 total yards in his last three games. Stefon Diggs will probably be the focus on the outside but will most likely be matched up against Marshon Lattimore.
New Orleans offense vs Minnesota defense:
- The Vikings defense ranks seventh defending the pass and fifth defending the run, based on DVOA.
- These numbers are a bit deceiving as the Vikings are 31st in run success rate allowed since Week 10. The Saints are first in Adjusted Line Yards on offense, per Football Outsiders, and the Vikings rank 23rd in Adjusted Line Yards allowed. Where Minnesota excels is not allowing any big run plays. They are fourthth in lowest percentage of big runs allowed.
- It took a little while, but Alvin Kamara has started to come on and in his last three games has rushed for 185 yards on 33 carries (5.6 YPC) during that stretch. What’s interesting is he has not received more than 14 carries since early October. He also hasn’t been targeted more than 6 times in a game since Week 12. I think Sean Payton has intentionally kept Kamara under wraps a bit late in the season in anticipation of unleashing him during the playoffs.
- Michael Thomas had eight or more receptions in 13 games on his way to an NFL record 149 receptions this season. Thomas accounted for a league-high 31.8% of the New Orleans targets this season and a massive 66.3% share of the team’s targets to WRs. Prior to a blowout against Carolina in Week 17, Thomas gained over 100 yards in eight of his last nine games. The Vikings rank 31st in receptions allowed per game to opposing wideouts at 14.4. Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes allowed the fifth and sixth most receptions in coverage this season among CBs. The Vikings are 24th in the NFL in yards allowed to No. 1 WRs. Besides a potential blowout where the Saints run the ball to close a game out, there is no reason to believe the Vikings can slow down Thomas.